Gloucester and Saracens complete semi-final line-up
February 7, 2010
Tom Voyce scored the winning try at the Stoop © Getty Images
This season's Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals will see Northampton entertain Saracens and Cardiff Blues play host to Gloucester.
Gloucester produced a remarkable second-half comeback to defeat Harlequins 31-29 at the Stoop and book their place in the last four. Tim Taylor's last-gasp conversion sealed the points for Bryan Redpath's side, who required a bonus-point win to edge out the Scarlets for a place in the last four. Having trailed 20-0 following Nick Evans' brace and James Percival's efforts, the Cherry and Whites scored five unanswered tries to seal victory.
James Simpson-Daniel crossed twice, either side of half-time, with Taylor adding another. Centre Tim Molenaar scored late on for the bonus-point try before Tom Voyce burrowed in for the pivotal close-range try on the stroke of full-time.
Elsewhere, Saracens squeezed into the semi-final picture despite losing 23-23 at home to a Dragons team who treated the game as if they also had something to play for. The English side went into the game knowing one point would send them to Franklin's Gardens while victory would mean a trip to take on the Cardiff Blues. But despite having nothing but pride to play for, the Dragons made it clear from the start that they had come to Vicarage Road to show their rugby skills.
Sarries flay-half Glen Jackson kicked four first half penalties but a try from wing Will Harries and eight points from the boot of JamesTovey gave the Dragons a narrow lead at the break. Harries struck again in the second half but a try from Chris Wyles' try pulled the home side back into the game. Replacement Derick Hougaard and Wyles both saw opportunities to win the game via penalties and drop goals as the close wore down, but both were off target which denied the home side the win, but the result was enough to see them through.
Northampton sealed a home semi-final with their 23-11 victory over Leicester Tigers at Franklins' Gardens. The Saints were the more clinical side in an entertaining affair, Stephen Myler sending Paul Diggin through to score after just two minutes with Myler converting. Billy Twelvetrees sent a 45 metre penalty over in reply, but it was Northampton who struck next with England squad member Chris Ashton setting Alan Dickens up to score.
Lucas Ambrosini set Twelvetrees up for a try with a superb run to make the score 14-8 at the break, but Myler put two penalties over after the interval to extend his side's lead. Twelvetrees scored kicked another penalty over to close the gap, but a late penalty from Barry Everitt sealed the win for Jim Mallinder's side.
Cardiff Blues' 38-23 away win over the Scarlets was enough to see them into the semi-finals. The Blues scored five tries en route to victory, with Tom Shanklin cancelling out Rhys Priestland's opener with a try. Lee Williams and David Lyons crossed for tries before the break to give the Llanelli men a 17-7 lead. But the Blues took the game by the scruff of the neck after the break, scoring 21 points without reply with Casey Laulala scoring two tries and Taufa'ao Filise adding another before Paul Tito scored a fifth.
In a dead-rubber at Kingston Park, three penalties from fly-half Dave Walder were enough for Wasps to claim a 9-3 victory over Newcastle in a dismal affair. With club captain Carl Hayman rested, Hall Charlton led a Falcons side who could muster only a penalty from fly-half Rob Miller.
On Saturday, South African fly-half Butch James made his comeback from a 10-month injury lay-off in Bath's 40-7 hammering of Sale Sharks at the Rec. James got the first half to prove his fitness and he did so in some style, with winger Michael Stephenson the man to benefit as he scored a hat-trick of tries. Bath's interest in the competition may have ended with defeat to Leicester last weekend, but their fans will have been heartened by James and fellow returnee Nick Abendanon's performances.
James' vision was doing considerable damage to Sale and it was Abendanon who fed Stephenson for the opening try. Matt Carraro scored the second from a scrum under the posts, before Peter Dixon added the third in the opening 15 minutes, Ryan Davis converting all three tries.
Sale recovered for long enough to allow Kristian Ormsby touch down, but Stephenson collected a James cross kick to score a fourth for Bath. Stephenson completed his hat-trick after the break and with Ben Cohen in the sin-bin following a stamp on Johnny Fa'amatuainu, Jack Cuthbert completed the rout.
London Irish's slim semi-final hopes came to an end at Sixways as they slumped to a 19-9 defeat to Worcester. The Warriors were in front early on as centre Dale Rasmussen carved open the Irish defence and his pass sent winger Chris Pennell over, with Willie Walker adding the extras. Ryan Lamb reduced the defecit with a long range penalty and he added another before the break. But Walker kicked his side home in a tryless second half.
On Thursday, a late penalty try from Leeds was not enough to inflict an Anglo-Welsh Cup whitewash on the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium. The Welsh side seemed to be cruising to victory after tries from Hanno Dirksen, Steve Tandy and Jamie Nutbrown helped them open up a 21-10 lead.
But a late rally saw Leeds earn a converted penalty try in injury time and make it a nervous few minutes for the home side, who had lost all their previous three games against Northampton, Bath and Gwent Dragons.
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside
"He had a death stare so you'd know when you were wrong." George Kruis talks about his mentor Borthwick, fly-fishing and his England aspirations